The conversation over at the Blog Roundup post, on the subject of physical abuse, has reminded me about something that'd been on my mind for quite a while: if there's a major issue going on within the Muslim community, and it happens to be a very sensitive issue, what do we do?
Take for example this situation: In my province there's an Islamic boarding school/ madrasah, set up and run by Pakistanis in the model of Pakistani madrasahs. Quite a few people have sent their children there, usually for around a year or so – but those we know, parents of students at our own Madrasah, have inevitably pulled their kids out of the school within the space of a few months. Why? Because the place is, to put it bluntly, a hellhole.
According to several parents, and to my own dad
who went there once to check it out, the place is squalid and filthy. There is a rigorous, perhaps even cruel, system in place; and when it comes to discipline, the stories are awful. One mother (whose sons now attends our Madrasah) relates how teachers would literally beat the kids senseless for the most trivial of errors – stumbling over the pronounciation of Qur'an would merit being boxed in the ears; students would be screamed at rather than spoken to; major discipline came in the form of being whipped by belts until
they bled – first by the teacher, and then by fellow students. Their injuries were not attended to, so much so that severe infections were contracted and they became so sick they couldn't move. The son who now attends our Madrasah still bears scars from his ordeal.
Mental abuse was also common; another mother said that for months after her son came back home, he would flinch, cringe and shake if anyone spoke to him in a slightly raised tone of voice, and he would cry when made to read or recite Qur'an – such was the result of his 'Islamic education'.
As mentioned above, the place was also filthy. My father came back from the school looking pale – he said that he couldn't stop gagging until he got off the property and away from the stench. The bathrooms were smeared with feces; there was no access to showers or baths, and the students – and their clothing – were coated in grime and stunk like outhouses; and pretty much every room in the buildings looked as though it hadn't been cleaned in years.
Now, this school was actually under investigation by the government after some people reported them, but apparently the charges were later dropped, reasons unknown (but guessed at).
When I asked my dad why someone would drop these charges if they knew them to be correct and not to be lies, he said that it was a pretty big issue, that it was a matter of getting fellow Muslims into trouble, causing more problems and fitnah in the community. He said that if the media got involved, they'd just use it as another excuse to show how bad Muslims are.
Herein arises my question and concerns: When we know that something wrong is going on, when our own people are involved in it… what do we do? Especially when it's a sensitive issue, when the consequences will be serious and the effects far-reaching within the community?
Something else that bugged me was, seeing as how so many of the parents know just what's going on at the school, why don't they do anything about it? My parents' answer shocked me: apparently, some parents WANT their kids to experience that, because they think it's actually good for them. HOW it's good for them, I have no idea, considering how a bunch of students emerged from the school only to turn away from Islam entirely – and my dad's had plenty of personal experience dealing with other results of the school: parents would come to him with their sons in tow, sons who had come back from the school with atrocious behaviour: loud, aggressive to the point of violence, and otherwise suffering from the effects of abuse. It would then be up to my dad to counsel the parents and their sons and try to undo the damage (extremely hard to do, not to mention not quite successful).
From the discussion we had below in the Blog Roundup thread, I've realized how touchy this whole subject of physical discipline is… taking into consideration what others have brought forth on the subject, I personally maintain that it's one of those things that changes depending on time and societal context. In this case, I think that discipline is one thing; but what was going on at the school is ABUSE! I honestly don't think whipping a child bloody, and then getting other kids to continue whipping him, is discipline. How on earth is being beaten senseless going to benefit the child? Is it going to teach him to love Islam and Muslims? Is it going to teach him how to behave? Is it going to give him a love of learning? I'm pretty sure we all know the answer to those questions: absolutely not!
So again: taking into consideration the sensitivity of the issue, what the reactions of the people might be (e.g. people would be angry about getting fellow Muslims into trouble), what the consequences of taking major action would be (being ostracized within the Muslim community; having the media get hold of it and use it as an excuse to show how bad Muslims are, etc.)… how do we, as individuals and as a community, react?
May Allāh grant us the wisdom to deal with such issues in the best way possible; and the strength and courage to fight for what's right even when we face huge opposition, āmīn!